TIME: Why the British Still Talk About the 'Dunkirk Spirit'

Press/Media: Research

Release date: 20/7/2017


The roots of this particular attitude are contested by some. Historian Penny Summerfield from the University of Manchester, in a 2010 paper for the Journal of Contemporary History, titled "Dunkirk and the Popular Memory of Britain at War," argues that the attitude now commonly called the 'Dunkirk spirit' existed before the event, but the name came as the rescue of 300,000 Allied troops became ingrained in national memory. She adds that the spirit and the phrase was later "exploited" by Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher.

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